Gastroschisis is a birth defect where the baby’s intestines, and sometimes other organs, are outside of the baby’s abdomen. After birth, surgery is required to place the baby’s organs back inside the abdomen. In 2013, a study showed that the number of cases of gastroschisis had nearly doubled between 1995-2005. The highest rates were observed in non-Hispanic white teen mothers. Women younger than age 20 were over seven times more likely to have a baby with gastroschisis compared with women aged 25-29.
Researchers from the CDC wanted to determine if the rate of gastroschisis continued to increase after 2005. Looking at data from 14 states between 2006-2012, they found that the number of babies born with gastroschisis has continued to increase. This growth was not limited to young mothers. There were more cases of gastroschisis across all categories of maternal age and race/ethnicity.
While the highest number of gastroschisis cases still occurs in young (<20 years old) non-Hispanic white mothers, the most recent data shows a significant increase among young black mothers as well.
These increases in gastroschisis are seen in the US and internationally. The underlying cause has not been determined. “When you see something rising as fast as this is in all population groups, and in all ages, it tells you something serious is going on. We need to try and figure out what it is so we can prevent the rise,” says Edward R.B. McCabe, MD, PhD, Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer at the March of Dimes.
Most babies with gastroschisis recover and develop normally. But, some babies go on to have feeding problems in early childhood. Learn more about the different types of abdominal defects and surgeries here.
The March of Dimes continues to fund research to better understand how conditions such as gastroschisis develops and how we can prevent them.